Our Progress as of 2015:

When we began our process, Utah's education had fallen to average. Since we began this process in 2011, we have made the following improvements:

  • Reading 4th Grade: went from 22nd among states to 14th.
  • Reading 8th Grade: went from 15th to 10th.
  • Math 4th Grade went from 26th to 20th.
  • Math 8th Grade: went from 28th to 16th.
  • High School Graduation: 25th among states.
  • College Completion: 18th among states.
Although we've made progress, we're not yet at our goal. In order to be in the top 10 among states for reading and math, we need to continue our efforts and make sure we stay on top.

Why Utah education needs this plan:

Across America, the most vibrant economies put education first. Decades of research show that a person’s earning power and a society’s wealth are tied to educational achievement. This applies more than ever, as economic prosperity is driven by those with knowledge and skills to compete in a global market. A recent Stanford study noted that across the nation communities “are dividing themselves into two distinct groups, with college-educated workers increasingly clustering” to educated cities and desirable places to live.

In the last two decades, Utah has lost the advantage it once held of being among the most highly-educated states in the nation. We now often rank as average or middle of the pack.

Some of the concerning data:

  • Almost 1 in 5 Utah high school students don’t graduate
    Some gains have been seen in recent years, but only four out of five ninth-graders go on to graduate from high school. These students who fail to graduate forfeit higher wages with the potential for family sustaining salaries and a good quality of life for themselves and those they impact. Other social impacts are felt as well. Test scores are lower than peer states.
  • While Utah 4th and 8th grade students perform close to the national average on standardized reading and math tests, Utah students are performing poorly compared to peer states, i.e., states with similar income, parents’ education and ethnic diversity. Nationally our 4th grade students rank 22nd in math and reading and 8th graders rank 28th in math. We can do better.
  • Utah now ranks 18th in the U.S. for the percentage of working-age adults with a degree
    In the last two decades, Utah has lost the advantage it once held of being among the most highly-educated states in the nation.
  • College readiness lags
    While Utah had the highest ACT composite score among states where all 11th grade students are tested, only 24% of test-takers met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmark scores. About one-third of college students need remediation.


Why the Utah business community should support this plan:

A prosperous community is fueled by education to maintain opportunity for our children and a vibrant economy for Utah’s future, we need to make strategic investments and changes. We have a strong economy and award winning business climate now, but much of Utah’s forecasted job growth is for low wage jobs and as economist Natalie Gochnour warned at the AXL conference, Utah’s results in ten years will be affected by what improvements we choose to make to education now. Quoting from Ken Robinson, she said, “The greatest danger…is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Over the past several years, leaders in business, community, education and policy have partnered together to put education first. This effort has been spearheaded by Education First and Prosperity 2020, which provide the leadership and the organization to bring Utah’s business community together in promoting a strategic investment in education. These groups have taken the time to understand education and to collaborate and coordinate efforts to improve. The resulting plan stems from these conversations, including those at the Governor’s Commission on Education Excellence, the Legislative Education Task Force, Legislative Interim and in a variety of other settings. It focuses on the key factors repeatedly identified as the pivotal influencers of success.

To be successful, any investment must be tied to strategies that significantly improve student achievement and increased accountability for results. The plan advocates for both and is critical to our efforts to produce and attract highly educated, highly skilled people who want to thrive in Utah.

Utah can be an economic powerhouse if we make strategic changes and investments. Let’s prosper through education.